The growing presence of populist and extremist messages in social media have been fueled in different countries across Asia, hijacking public discourse on crucial issues with divisive messages. The rise of extremist, authoritarian or far-right political figures bred a polarizing environment in social media.
Disinformation networks have also sprouted in social media with the deliberate purpose of silencing critics or amping the popularity of political figures through propaganda. According to a study from Freedom House, some governments in Southeast Asia have become top sources of disinformation while freedom of the press remains low in the region. Disinformation has thrived in countries where the press is muzzled by laws restricting their work. Turning the tide against populism and breaking through barriers for progressive politics requires leaders who can win hearts and minds.